Touring Northern Kentucky By Bike, 1882
It was 9 o'clock of a Thursday forenoon, the first forenoon of June, when I first got astride my bicycle, at the head of the so-called Lexington turnpike, in the outskirts of Covington, Ky., about two miles from the railroad station in Cincinnati, whence I had trundled it along the sidewalks and over the big bridge. After riding a mile I stopped midway on a long hill, which would have been ridable to the summit except for the recent rain, and took a look backward at the smoky city below me. Erlanger, a railroad station six miles on, was reached at 11 o'clock; and it is enshrined in my memory as the spot where a German servant-girl, observing me oiling the wheel, came out to inquire if I would grind a pair of scissors for her mistress. For two miles beyond this point, or to the village of Florence, the mud continued to give occasional trouble; but dryness thenceforth prevailed, and the road averaged better as to both smoothness and hardness, so that in the next hour and a half I covered the nine miles, ending at a wretched little inn at Walton, where I stopped for lunch. Eighteen miles beyond was Williamstown, the county-seat, and there I rested for the night, at the Campbell House, whose accommodations, though very inferior, were said to be by no means as bad as those offered by its rival, the Sherman. I arrived at 6 o'clock, having been two and a half hours in doing the last thirteen miles from Crittenden; and the cyclometer's record for the whole distance from the railroad station in Cincinnati was thirty-nine miles. "Pike" is the only word used in Kentucky to designate a macadamized highway or turnpike; and the Lexington pike, on which I began my ride through the State, I should have found to be a very good one had not some sections of it been spoiled by the railroad men. These people agreed that such parts of the pike as were needed for their new line should be replaced by a parallel roadway, just as solidly and smoothly paved as the original; but they failed to keep their agreement, and the parts of the pike that had been made by them supplied the poorest riding of the day. During the whole of it I probably found not a single mile of continuously level surface ; but none of the grades were too steep for riding when well paved. The most striking sign of a changed civilization, which challenged my attention as soon as I entered the State, was the number of people on horseback, going about their usual business, with bundles, bags, baskets, and farming implements, hitched to their saddles. They seemed to outnumber the people who drove in wagons or carriages; whereas, in the East, a horseback-rider who is not simply a pleasure-seeker is a rare bird indeed. I found that these Kentucky steeds, being only half broken, were more inclined to take fright than any others known to my experience. So, having inadvertently caused one of them to back against a fence and break his harness, a few hours after I begun my tour, I generally made a practice of dismounting as they approached me.
A bicycler who happened to be staying at the hotel in Williamstown assured me that, as the next twenty-five miles of pike southward would be found very rough and hilly, I had best go by rail to Sadieville, and resume my tour at that point. On Friday forenoon, therefore, after riding a mile and a half about the streets, for the entertainment of an admiring populace, I took train for the station named, and, mounting there at 11 o'clock, went up and then down a long hill, two miles, mostly afoot, until I reached a toll-gate, where I made a turn to the left and south. From here to the next toll-gate, six miles and a half beyond, I rode nearly all the way and made very few stops. I was now fairly in the Blue-Grass Region; the pike became exceedingly smooth, and in a little less than an hour I rolled over another section of it as long as that last-named, and found myself at the Court-House in Georgetown. The postmaster, the local editor, and "other prominent citizens " paid their respects to me as I partook of a lunch, and wished me good luck when I mounted, at a quarter of 3 o'clock, for a ride to the Court-House in Lexington, which I reached in an hour and forty minutes. This stretch was the best I had yet encountered, — all of it being smooth and ridable, though continuously hilly, — and I made no stops, except for the sake of horses. At the end of every mile were guide-posts, showing the distances to both Georgetown and Lexington. The similitude of all this fine lolling country to a vast park, whereof I made mention at the outset, was perhaps nowhere more impressive than in this particular section of it.
Excerpted from an article by Karl Kron. His article, The Hills of Kentucky, appeared in the periodical Outing and the Wheelman: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine of Recreation, in Volume 3, October 1883 to March 1884. His whole journey took him on to Mammoth Cave, and back to Maysville, where he packed up his broken bicycle and shipped it home. You can read the entire piece at Google Books.